“[John] Densmore's is the first Doors biography that feels like it was written for the right reasons, and it is easily the most informed account of the Doors' brief but brilliant life as a group. . . . Densmore is a fluent, articulate writer who both comprehends the Doors' unearthly power and is on familiar terms with their antecdedents in literature, theater, and myth.”—Rolling Stone
“Well-written and touching . . . tells it all and tells it honestly.”—The New York Times Book Review
“John Densmore's Riders of the Storm is as good an account of the history of the Doors as has been printed to date.”—USA Today
“Riders on the Storm is very enjoyable, especially its homespun and self-experienced insights. John Densmore is a survivor and a seeker.”—Oliver Stone
Related collections and offers
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||10 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
BREAK ON THROUGH
It smelled like rain. I had hoped it would storm. Then we wouldn’t have had to see his grave. My heartbeat was increasing. I looked over at Robby, Danny, and Hervé in the car as we approached the cemetery. They all seemed to be nervously anticipating what was to come. The high thick walls looked ominous, as if they protected something ancient and mysterious inside.
As we rounded the entrance, a Chaplin-like gendarme waddled up to us and asked where we were headed.
“Do you know where Jim Morrison’s grave is?” I asked with trepidation.
“Ah, mais oui,” he answered in a thick accent. “Monsieur Morrison’s grave is up that cobblestone lane. The graffiti will guide you there. It was removed recently, but as you will see, plenty more has been added. So don’t contribute, d’accord?”
“D’accord.” Let’s get this over with, I mumbled to myself as we walked past his guardhouse.
The lane got steeper and steeper as we ascended past moss-covered gravestones. A cold, damp mist began to surround us. Several mangy cats scurried across our path into dark holes that were graves. Besides many famous European corpses, Père Lachaise Cemetery is home to hundreds of stray felines.
Strange that a good ole boy from Florida is there. Jim would’ve liked the company, though. Have to wonder if he didn’t plan it that way.
The massive, baroque markers along the cemetery road led the way to Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Edith Piaf, and Chopin. And then the graffiti: “Morrison—this way,” carved into a tombstone probably over a hundred years old; then, painted crudely over one old ornate marker after another: “Acid Rules,” “This Is Not The End,” “Jim Was a Junkie.” As the desecration got more and more outrageous, I sensed that the gravesite was getting nearer.
“Over here,” Hervé, the French journalist, said wearily. He was standing behind some large granite crypts. We shuffled along the side of the lane, then began to climb over several tumbledown stones to a small rectangle of cement in the ground.
I stared at it incredulously. This is it? I cried to myself. This is the end of the Electric Shaman, the Acid King, Oedipus Rex himself?
I looked over at Danny Sugerman and my eyes welled up with tears. My stomach knotted, my legs began to itch with the old maddening rash. I wanted to run away. “Do you understand now?” I said to Danny under my breath.
He nodded, then turned to me. “My God, I had no idea,” he said, noticing my grief, as if for the first time.
“Of course not. You weren’t in the band. You were the publicist,” I snapped, feeling a need to lash out.
Robby straggled alongside, quiet as ever, keeping a lid on his feelings, as usual. Our guitarist was introverted, but he was my best friend.
“How could he fit in there?” I asked, feeling slightly ludicrous. “He was six feet tall—wasn’t he?”
Maybe it’s true, I thought. Maybe he isn’t dead. Maybe he is in Africa trying to live out one more myth. First Dionysus, then Nietzsche, then Rimbaud?
Wait a minute. He’s dead, you asshole. You watched him destroy himself, I hissed at myself as I stared at the grave. And you didn’t do anything about it. Couldn’t do anything about it. You saw it coming for years, but …
Nietzsche killed Jim Morrison, I had once said rather melodramatically to some startled friends in Berkeley. Morrison the Superman, the Dionysian madman, the Birth of Tragedy himself. But who knows who or what killed him? God knows, a million people have come to me hoping I had the answer.
I shoved my hands into my coat pockets and sighed with deep despair. This is a beautiful place to be buried, Jim, but your plot seems so small and cold and dirty and—unworthy.
All our lives we sweat and save
Building for a shallow grave
Must be something else we say
Somehow to defend this place.
“The Soft Parade,” remember, Jim?
The gravesite was silent. Defiantly silent. I felt the cold rain creeping down my neck. Chills. Hervé and Robby milled around nervously. A young rock-’n’-roll pilgrim nearby strummed a Doors song on his guitar in homage. On his backpack was a Doors sticker. There’s no escape.
Jim, I’m still in the labyrinth, trying to find answers to questions I don’t even know how to phrase. Sure, Ray, Robby, and I talked about your self-destruction, but Robby and I rationalized that you’d probably live till you were eighty, like a tough old Irish drunk. My body knew better, though. I got year-long headaches, rashes, phobias. And still I hung in there. Robby said that one thing that made the band powerful was the psychic strength we had to tolerate your excesses. If this were still the sixties I’d accept that, but I need more than that now so I can move on.
I turned back to the surreally decorated tombstone. What were you saying in your songs that could possibly defend your courting of insanity and nearly dragging us down with you? What was your fucking message, Jim? Anarchy? Why did I put up with it all those years? For the money? The fame? The girls? All these years later I feel like I betrayed myself, compromised, that I was never man enough to stand up to you and really quit. Oh, I stormed out once—in Michigan—remember? But I came back.
You knew I would, didn’t you—how?
“C’mon, John, we gotta go,” said Danny.
I waved them on. “I just need another minute.”
After they’d gone: silence. Then the rain started pattering on the moss, filling up a corner of the dirt inside the plain gravesite. A couple of flowers floated limp in the mud.
Jim, I’m real proud of what we did, I whispered to my old friend’s burial plot, but I’m weary of only being known as your drummer. I don’t know who I am. I’m thirty-one years old, I know that. Outlived you by four years, you son of a bitch. I realize now that I wasn’t very conscious about my path in life at the time. At least you fulfilled your prophecy, even if you had to die to propagate the Doors’ precious myth. Our secret death pact. Nonverbal, of course.
Or am I hallucinating? You had started out for the void and Ray, Robby, and I, your Feast of Friends, supported you. To a point. We had no idea that you meant to do it literally. Now I wonder if I could have done anything to stop you, even while watching old footage and old interviews where we say, Well, somebody has to go out on the edge for the rest of us.
Did I compromise myself? I have to know.
A freezing gust of wind shook me out of my reverie. I spun around quickly and ran to catch up with the others. At the gate I put my arm around Danny’s shoulder as we headed down the cobblestones to Hervé’s car. Robby shook his head in deep despair. He had gone pale. He couldn’t even look at me. He just stared numbly out the foggy car window as we slowly pulled out of the cemetery.